Traveling to Marrakech, Morocco for the first time and unsure of the customs and traditions? Follow my travel tips for Marrakech - 10 things NOT to do to make sure you have a smooth trip.
It’s always wise to do some research on the customs and cultures of a city or country before visiting. Not only will this help you fit in, but will also avoid embarrassing or uncomfortable situations. I found this to be especially true for Morocco.
I've made a list of essential travel tips for Marrakech, Morocco. Ensure you have an enjoyable trip and avoid mistakes many tourists make by NOT doing these 10 things.
These Marrakech travel tips can serve as a helpful guideline for travel all over Morocco, but are especially useful for major tourist cities like Marrakech and Fez.
TRAVEL ADVICE for Marrakech, Morocco - WHAT NOT TO DO
1. Take photos of people or their merchandise
Snapping a picture of a local or shop without first asking permission is frowned upon.
Many Moroccan’s have superstitions of cameras and photos and do not take kindly to tourists taking their photo.
While some locals will simply cover their face or look away if you take a picture in their direction, others will become extremely agitated and start yelling at you.
If you would like to take a picture of a local or their product, ask permission first and don’t be surprised if they say no or they ask for a very small amount of money as compensation. 5-10 dirham is typical.
This is a biggie when it comes to travel advice for Marrakech and is something that took me by surprise before I learned better. Be mindful of this 24/7.
I personally would take photos of public scenes or places and make sure not to point my camera directly at individuals. It was also helpful to take pictures with either my husband or me in the photo so it was obvious we were the focus of the picture and not someone else.
Keep in mind that tourist cities like Marrakech see thousands of tourists a year. It can get quite annoying for locals to continually deal with visitors not respecting their privacy. Like the rest of the world, if you show respect, respect will typically be shown back to you.
2. Wear your emotions
The best advice I received was “watch your facial expressions because Moroccan’s will mirror you”.
Marrakech is different and can definitely leave the average tourist frustrated. Be careful with your reactions.
When the tenth person comes up to you in a crowded shopping square like Jemma al-fnaa trying to convince you to buy this or that, practice patience and say “no thanks” with a smile.
The moment you turn that smile to a frown and start getting visibly frustrated, that Moroccan salesman will mirror you and come off forceful or even hostile.
Stay friendly (but firm and confident) to avoid uncomfortable situations. This will be one of the most important travel tips for Marrakech when in the shopping areas and souks.
3. Enter Mosques if you don't practice Islam
Mosques in Morocco are closed to non-Muslims. Please be respectful and stick to this rule and enjoy the view from the outside.
One exception is the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca.
4. Enter a taxi with a "broken" meter
Do not get into a taxi without first asking if they are using a meter. Even though it's illegal, many taxi drivers will turn the meter off and say “it's broken” so they can overcharge.
5. Accept directions
A major scam in the tourist areas of Marrakech is for locals (often children) to offer directions. Often you will hear something along the lines of “are you are looking for Jemma al-fnna? This way! Follow me!”. Don’t do it as this is a scam!
Their goal is to get you lost so you then have to pay to get back to where you started. Everyone gets lost in confusing cities like Fez and Marrakech with the unlabeled streets and winding alleyways. Know you will eventually find your way (or at least a familiar landmark) and walk with confidence.
6. Wear showy clothing
Tourist cities like Marrakech and Casablanca are considered very liberal when you compare them to smaller, lesser known towns in Morocco. Women do not need to wear a headscarf, but I do highly recommend dressing conservatively.
You can get away with most outfits in the big cities, but unless you want to get stares paired with disapproving looks, I would stay away from short shorts, skimpy tank tops, and anything that shows cleavage. I wore skinny jeans with loose, long sleeve tops and felt completely comfortable.
Smaller rural towns that see less tourists will seem much more conservative in dress. Pay particular attention to how you dress if you're traveling outside major tourist cities and wear loose fitting clothing that covers your legs and shoulders.
7. Get henna in the square or on the streets
Henna artists will offer their services in the main squares and streets of Marrakech. Many of these artists use dangerous ingredients in their ink, like gasoline. If you want a henna tattoo, go to a cafe or shop that specializes in henna.
I went to Henna Art Café and had a wonderful experience.
Research your options and make sure to verify that their ink is safe. This should be at the top of your list for Morocco tips to remember.
8. Visit the monkey handlers and snake charmers
Avoid the monkey handlers and snake charmers in the main squares. These guys steal the monkeys from the mountains and sew the snake’s mouths shut. Jemma al-fnaa square is particularly bad with this practice. Please don’t support this animal abuse and steer clear.
9. Pay advertised prices
Those who enjoy haggling will appreciate this Marrakech travel advice. Many shops in the souks will mark their prices up knowing many tourists will pay that amount without a second thought.
Before you buy anything, visit several places selling similar items to get an idea of the average price. When you're ready to buy, don’t be afraid to ask for a lower price. Depending on the item, I would usually start asking at 25-35% lower than the advertised price and work from there.
Please remember that this is how these people feed their families, so don't haggle to the point where it's embarrassing and you are cheating the shop owner from any sort of profit.
10. Believe everyone is out to get you
This post on travel tips for Marrakech has a lot of warnings, but please do not act like every Moroccan is out to scam you. Moroccans are good people and want you to enjoy your time in their beautiful country. Trust your instincts and have an open mind.
Many travelers avoid Morocco because they are uninformed. Did you know Morocco has similar safety ratings to France, Germany, and the U.K.? The World Economic Forum ranked Morocco at #3 on the world's friendliest countries list.
As long as you exercise the same caution you would in any other major city and are mindful of the cultural differences and the points I made above, you will leave this city wondering why you didn't visit sooner.